July 2021 Group Watch: April Weaver Wins Senate Seat

With a fraction over 80 percent of the vote, April Weaver won the special election for the District 14 seat in the Alabama Senate held on July 13. She previously served for a decade in the Alabama House and most recently served as the Region IV Regional Director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, being tapped for the position by former President Trump. Read more here.

July 2021 Group Watch: Controversial Critical Race Theory Not in AL Schools

In a meeting earlier this week, The Alabama Board of Education worked on language for a resolution related to critical race theory that could see a vote later this summer, and State Superintendent Eric Mackey confirmed that CRT is “certainly not” currently being taught in the state’s schools. Read more here.

June 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Summer is here, and despite the 2021 regular session being over, there’s still plenty of news to report.

COVID funds are still flowing, and leaders are deciding how to best divvy them up.

On the economic development front, the state’s many wins in this arena — including a big announcement of a company move last week — have earned it national recognition.

And even Alabama’s politicians are being noticed and honored. Read all about this and more in this month’s Group Watch.

June 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

June 8
It’s official: I’m running, and I’m all-in! I will put Alabama First, deliver results for our state and never apologize for it. Because we don’t just need a senator from Alabama, we need a Senator for Alabama. #BrittForAlabama #AlabamaFirst

June 2021 Group Watch: Ivey Awards Community Development Grants

Governor Ivey awarded $500,000 each to the city of Opelika and Russell County and $300,000 each to Marengo, Monroe and Pickens counties. The awards are part of more than $40 million allocated to Alabama under a special Community Development Block Grant program funded from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES). The grant funds are required to be expended on projects relating to the recovery from or preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus or any future infectious diseases. The City of Opelika will use funds to rehabilitate a senior citizen center and purchase equipment to improve social distancing in public buildings. Marengo County will use funds to repair a roof on its business incubator building in Linden and pave a parking lot at the regional hospital in Demopolis. Both buildings can be used for testing and vaccination centers. Monroe County will purchase medical equipment to help respond to COVID-19 and any future healthcare crises. Russell County will use funds to purchase a mobile health clinic and equipment to provide health services.

June 2021 Group Watch: COVID Funds for Prisons?

Governor Ivey met with legislative leaders to discuss Alabama’s need for new prisons, talks that included the possibility of using federal coronavirus relief funds to help cover the costs. State officials are looking for new options after the plan by Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections to lease and operate three new men’s prisons that would have been financed and built by developers stalled. The governor has not backed away from a commitment to build new prisons, saying they remain an essential part of overhauling a correctional system that the Department of Justice has alleged holds men in unconstitutional conditions. State and local governments in Alabama are expected to receive about $4 billion to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts, and the spending of these funds could be more flexible than CARES Act monies. It’s likely there will be more discussion to determine how many, if any, of these federal dollars can be used to address the prison crisis. The legislature could authorize the sale of bonds for prison construction, but no firm proposal is on the table at this time. Some expect a special session will be held before the end of the summer to deal with this issue.

June 2021 Group Watch: Possible Uses for American Rescue Plan Funds

Alabama officials are early in the process of deciding how to use the latest round of federal funds coming to the state because of COVID-19 in the form of the American Rescue Plan, including a determination of whether some of the money could be used to help build prisons (see above). The Legislature will have to approve use of the money within guidelines that the U.S. Treasury Department  recently set out in a 150-page document. State and local governments have until the end of 2024 to use it. Along with costs directly related to the coronavirus, the money can be used to expand high-speed internet access, a need that increased in urgency after the pandemic showed the importance of being able to work and take classes from home. The money can be used for water and sewer projects and will help counties and municipalities make long-needed improvements. They can use some of the funds to make up for a loss in tax revenues caused by the pandemic. The pandemic disrupted Alabama’s economy, raising unemployment to 13.8 percent in April 2020, up from a record low 3.5 percent the month before. By December 2020, the rate was back down to 3.9 percent, and Alabama’s tax revenues appeared to hold up overall. The Treasury Department formula allows states to plug in an expected average growth factor of at least 4 percent to measure whether they lost revenue during the pandemic. It is this scenario that allows states flexibility in spending some of the federal dollars.

June 2021 Group Watch: Alabama Wins Gold Shovel Award

Area Development, a prominent national business publication, has selected Alabama for its Gold Shovel Award, recognizing the state’s economic development success in the manufacturing sector during a challenging 2020. The honor follows a year of strong results for Alabama, with companies announcing new facilities and expansion projects involving nearly $5 billion in new capital investment despite uncertain global business conditions. The Gold Shovel award is a testament to Alabama’s skilled workforce and to the pro-business environment that makes the state such an attractive location for investment.  Alabama has been a frequent winner since the magazine launched the awards in 2006, when it also won a Gold Shovel. The state also claimed the award in 2013 and in 2019. This is the second GoldShovel Award that Alabama has earned during Governor Ivey’s tenure.

June 2021 Group Watch: Company Called Landing Leaving California to Land in Bham

Landing, the nationwide membership network of fully-furnished apartments, is relocating its headquarters from San Francisco to Birmingham. The company plans to create 816 new full-time jobs as it continues to grow in a time when housing is at a premium nationwide. Landing’s new headquarters will be located in downtown Birmingham at the John Hand Building. Bill Smith, the creator of Birmingham-based Shipt, founded Landing in late 2019 as a startup targeted at supplying housing needs for on-the-go professionals. Since the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for remote work, the company has seen exponential growth, surging from operating in nine cities a year ago to more than 80 today; it has seen 1,250-percent growth in 12 months time. Landing offers a flexible membership leasing model for fully-furnished apartments, with on-call concierge services and housekeeping through an app.

June 2021 Group Watch: Manufacture Alabama Endorses Ivey

The state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to the needs and interests of manufacturers and their partner industries and businesses, Manufacture Alabama has endorsed Governor Ivey for re-election. In a statement put out by the association, MA president Georger Clark explains that Ivey has earned the associations support, “due to her commitment to our state, her deep understanding of industry’s needs and her unwavering support for our manufacturers across Alabama. Governor Ivey has long been a friend to our association and a passionate advocate for the manufacturing industry.  She has always been committed to make Alabama an even better place to live and conduct business and leads with a common-sense approach. Her tireless leadership has brought positive outcomes to our manufacturers and we couldn’t be prouder to give her our full endorsement.” Read more here.

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